Michael Collins Recollects Historical Mission of Apollo 11

Inside the command module Columbia, Michael Collins orbited the lunar surface on the first Moon landing, keeping watch over two other astronauts who were the first-ever among mankind to walk on the lunar ground, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Often dubbed as the “third man” of the most historic Moon landing, Collins played a crucial role in the expedition. Throughout the course of that incredible moment, he maintained the command module’s operations in check as the world watched and waited.

Early Life

Collins attended West Point before joining the United States Air Force, for which some members of his family were in the military service. His father and uncle were U.S. Army major general and chief of staff of the U.S. Army, respectively. Upon joining the third astronaut group of NASA in 1963, Collins’ service included periods as a test pilot and fighter pilot.

According to Collins, he had his primary pilot training in Columbus, Mississippi, and it was a wonderful experience for him, learning how to fly a little bit for six months. After that, he moved to Waco, Texas, for instrument and jet training. Eventually, he got his wings afterward.

Following his training, Collins was ordered to fly in F-86 Sabre jets and join the fight against the MiGs in Korea, but the armistice at the time was signed, and his orders were canceled. Subsequently, he went to Southern California and France, where he served in a fighter squadron for a couple of years in the latter country. After his service in France, Collins went to Edwards Air Force Base, entered Air Force Test Pilot School, and later Aerospace Research Pilot School.

First Space Flight

In 1966, Collins was among the select astronauts for the Gemini Program, which according to him, was named after Gemini Twins as it carried two people. His first space flight was on Gemini 10 with John Young, in which they performed orbital rendezvous with two spacecraft and undertook two EVAs (extravehicular activities), also known as spacewalks.

Apollo 11 Mission

Collins was a bit disappointed upon learning that he’s put on the command module pilot spot. Prior to that, he was part of the first Apollo crew, where he’s supposed to be the lunar module pilot. However, since he was removed from the crew for medical reasons, when he’s fit to return, he was put on the command module pilot position. His position was bumped up after the addition of Bill Anders, but Deke Slayton’s rule at the time was that if someone was going to be a command module pilot and flying around the Moon solo, he didn’t want a rookie to do that.


From the launch pad 39A, with the rocket’s 7.5 million pounds of thrust, one would expect a deafening roar, but Collins described the inside as a lot quieter than one might imagine. According to him, they could hear each other on the radio. Also, the acceleration was very slight as it leaves the pad slowly. Collins described the peak gravitational force as 4.5 Gs as the rocket completed its series of booster stages until they’re in Earth’s orbit.

Lunar Orbit

After the historic lunar orbit of Collins, he shared that when he got back from the flight, along with Armstrong and Aldrin, he was subjected to lots of press inquiries, and most of them were centered on the question if he felt lonely during his lone lunar orbit flight. However, Collins said that the truth was considerably different. He was happy with the command module and that he was happy to be there.

Subsequently, Collins had decided that the Apollo 11 would be his last flight due to complex reasons, which was centered more on his family.

Photo Sources:

Cover Photo – YouTube 1:04
Photo 1 – YouTube 2:01
Photo 2 – YouTube 2:09
Photo 3 – YouTube 11:17
Photo 4 – NASA